To remind you what a big deal “Phantom” is: Touring Broadway shows in Fresno usually play for just two performances. The national tour of “The Phantom of the Opera” has 15. (Read my review here and my discussion with co-worker Kent Gaston.) As the production kicks off its second and final weekend at the Saroyan Theatre, we share a theatrical smorgasbord of news and notes.
In a long-running show such as “Phantom,” actors come and go. The Fresno production happens to be the end of the run for four principals at the end of their contracts: Chris Mann as the Phantom, Storm Lineberger as Raoul, Jacquelynne Fontaine as Carlotta and Morgan Cowling as Meg Giry. When the tour resumes Oct. 20 in Fort Worth, Texas, four new actors will take the stage. The cast will bid adieu with a “Happy Trails” pizza party Sunday, Oct. 16, between the matinee and evening performances.
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We’ve already told you about Fontaine’s connection to Fresno and how she won the 2006 Miss California title at the Saroyan. Her mom, Donna Fontaine, a former Miss Fresno in days gone by (talk about good genes!) will be in the audience Friday, Oct. 14, to watch one of her daughter’s final performances. After nearly three years on tour, Jacquelynne Fontaine says Sunday’s performance will be bittersweet, but it’ll be nice to end her run in Fresno.
Peer into the pit and you’ll see that the “Phantom” orchestra includes 10 local musicians. “I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that we feel blessed to be playing alongside the traveling musicians in the pit for the Fresno production of the national tour,” says bassoonist Larry Gardner.
A better deal
Rather than pump up the ticket prices to near-Broadway levels, producers of the “Phantom” national tour aren’t charging as much in Fresno as much as previous big national tours. The top “Phantom” price is $103. Last year’s “Book of Mormon” asked $128 for the best seats and the 2014 tour of “Wicked” charged $130. Meanwhile, top price for the current national tour of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in San Francisco is $212. Welcome to supply and demand, folks. The nice thing is that with lower prices, more people can see the show.
Twenty trucks are used to move the production from city to city. Thirty-five local stagehands are used for each performance. More than 1,200 costume pieces are used during the show. The design uses more than 85 moving lights, 200 speakers and four kinds of haze/smoke effects. The chandelier weighs one ton, and the main setpiece weighs 10 tons.
“The Phantom of the Opera” reached worldwide grosses of $6 billion in 2014. Revenues surpass the world’s highest-grossing film “Avatar “(at $2.8 billion).
Now if the Phantom could only apply his cunning and ingenuity to solving the women’s restroom intermission crisis at the Saroyan. Observed on press night: Two women trying to cajole men at the front of the line to offer up one of their stalls to the other gender. What would happen if the theater gave three restrooms to women and one for the guys?
Angela Gonzales writes: I can certainly appreciate the change of set from the original, especially because it offers as much as a smaller stage can. At today’s matinee, we saw Kaitlyn Davis as Christine, and Travis Taylor as the Phantom. Ms. Davis brought everything to the table vocally that I expected, while I was sadly dissatisfied with the performance of Mr. Taylor. Vocally, he was acceptable. The acting was weak and his Phantom was very … for lack of a better word, whiny. Needy. Too emotional. In the final scenes of the performance this served him well. But I would have liked to see more of the “monster” not just the emotional turmoil of the man.
Overall, it was a fine experience. But, having experienced the show 20+ years ago in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, it certainly was lacking the majestic awe and emotional thrills that are possible with a show/story like this. I actually have to disagree with (Donald Munro’s review). I never forgot I was sitting in the theater and reality was just outside the door.
Jim Tuck writes: I was taken by the ingenious set and I loved the entire production.
Clare Anzoleaga writes: Emotional performance of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” Wow! I’m so glad they came to town!
Phantom contest winner
Just who is that masked man? If you’re talking about the winner of our Fresno Bee “Phantom” reader contest, it’s Adrian Jump of Reedley. He dressed as the Phantom for Dinuba Mennonite Brethren Church’s family fun night to celebrate Halloween. He wins a “Phantom of the Opera” poster from Broadway in Fresno.